At Vox, Shadi Hamid argues no. He rightfully says that in order to evaluate the success of the intervention, we need to evaluate the Libya that is against the Libya that would have been without NATO airpower. He argues, pace Barack Obama, that “had we not intervened, it’s likely that Libya would be Syria. ... and so there would be more death, more disruption, more destruction.”
Do we know that, however? It is also possible that the government would have invaded Benghazi, killed tens of thousands of people in reprisals and round-ups, and then re-established its authority.
If you believe that a prolonged civil war was inevitable, then the intervention was not a failure. If you believe that the government could have re-established order, then the intervention succeeded only if the subsequent chaos led to fewer deaths than a government victory.
Was it realistic to believe that the Libyan dictatorship could have (unlike its Syrian counterpart) re-established order and survived, or was the country doomed to fall into chaos once the rebels chased government forces out of eastern Libya in February 2001?